Weir fallout prompts Racing Victoria review

5 min read

By Bren O"Brien

As the fall out of the Darren Weir scandal continues, Racing Victoria has admitted it may consider capping stable numbers for trainers.

Weir will not contest the three charges levelled at him by Racing Victoria over possession of electric 'jiggers' and will front a Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board hearing on Wednesday, where it is expected he will receive the minimum four-year-ban recommended by stewards.

But while Weir's future in the sport is set to be resolved with surprising speed, the impact of the stunning fall from grace from Australia's leading trainer looks set to drag on for some time.

Weir had over 600 horses under his name when his stables were raided by police and stewards last week which prompted stewards to temporarily stand him down last Friday.

While many high-profile horses have been transferred to new stables, many others remain at his former stables at Forest Lodge, near the Ballarat Racecourse.

“Some (areas of interest) include whether we’ve got the right number of trainers and do we have trainers that are training too many horses." - RV Chairman, Brian Kruger

Meanwhile staff at Ballarat, Warrnambool and Maldon remain in limbo, while a series of businesses reliant on Weir, also face uncertain futures.

Racing Victoria chairman Brian Kruger told RSN that the Victorian racing authority would conduct a review after the Weir scandal and that it would consider a possible restriction on the size of stables.

Racing Victoria chairman, Brian Kruger

“Some (areas of interest) include whether we’ve got the right number of trainers and do we have trainers that are training too many horses,” he said.

“If we form the view that that is something which is necessary to prevent the sort of issues we’ve been dealing with then absolutely we will do it.”

“We would need to be convinced but absolutely we would implement it."

There had been fears expressed before the charges against Weir that he had got too big for the industry to handle and that he might prove 'too big to fail'.

The circumstances of the past week have proven that is not the case, but they have certainly ripped a significant hole in the industry.

Leonard takes control

It was confirmed that stable manager Mick Leonard will assume interim training responsibilities at Weir's Forest Lodge stables in Ballarat while a permanent replacement is sorted, allowing operations to continue.

"The trainer most likely to take over is a person of high regard in the industry. Naturally, your option to subsequently select a different trainer of your choice is not affected by the interim arrangements," a note to owners from Leonard said.

"Our existing staff will care for these horses with the same skill, knowledge and commitment that they have always demonstrated." - Mick Leonard

Andrew Nicholl with Mick Leonard

"Any horse in the early and middle stages of its preparation will continue to be trained at Forest Lodge."

"Our existing staff will care for these horses with the same skill, knowledge and commitment that they have always demonstrated. In the interim we are not allowed to trial or race horses."

"This is obviously a period of great duress for the stable and our staff in particular. We would very much appreciate our owners' continued support whilst we arrange the transfer of our premises to the incoming trainer."

McLean to train on

Weir's Warrnambool foreman, Jarrod McLean will contest the charge levelled against him over the possession of a jigger and until that charge has been heard has been allowed to continue to train under his own name, but not any of the horses' previously prepared by Weir.

However, he confirmed in communication with his owners that he would look to expand his operation at the Warrnambool Racing Club by 14 horses in order to 'assist in keeping people in jobs'.

Jarrod McLean (left) with Trap For Fools

The knock-on effect

Meanwhile, Pat Cannon, who had been providing rehabilitation and pre-training for many of Weir's horses, revealed he may have to shut down his business and had already had to plan for letting staff go.

"40-50 horses of Weiry's probably go through the place in a month, so it’s going to hit me pretty hard," he told RSN.

"I've sat the staff down, I employ two people full time and we’ve had a discussion and worst case scenario, I’ll probably have to lay off one of my full-timers,"

"She's one of my best workers, she's got three kids and she's a single mum. It’s going to hit her hard."

Cannon said he was just one of many businesses who were faced with a crisis because of what happened with Weir.

Pat Cannon

Warrnambool Racing Club CEO Peter Downs said the club faced a $150,000 shortfall should it not find someone to replace Weir's operation.

"Weir has been a huge supporter of our race club and has utilised our facilities heavily each and every day of the week. There are about 100 horses of Weir's down this way, and if all of those were to go, and we weren't able to find replacement, it would have that sort of impact to us," he said.

Downs said he was hopeful a combination of local trainers and those from outside the region would pick up the extra boxes.

Racing Victoria has said it has reached out to staff and businesses affected by the events which have enveloped Weir's operation and it would assist in finding new employment for those who required it.